Whatever Happened to the Smoking Ordinance? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/10/03

Whatever Happened to the Smoking Ordinance?

After years of petitioning, debates and confusion, Lubbock now has a smoking ordinance. But, it's a complicated one, and the city's health inspectors are now dealing with the headache of educating 11,000 businesses about what they can and cannot allow.

Health inspectors say the biggest misconception is that this ordinance only applies to restaurants and not other businesses. That's of course not the case. So now inspectors are going door to door making sure every business in town is in compliance. But with 11,000 businesses in Lubbock, education is going to take a while.

Health Inspector Tommy Russell is one of seven inspectors going door to door. Handing out stickers that read: 'Breath easy.. This establishment is smoke-free.' Stickers that must be posted at business entrances. It's a massive effort to educate businesses about Lubbock's smoking ban.

It's something that's well received by most businesses. "I appreciate what they're doing," says one business manager.

Only a handful have refused the free signs. "They just don't want the city telling them what to do," says the City of Lubbock's Lead Environmental Inspector Bridget Faulkenberry.

"As a smoker, I'm upset by it. It bothers me. I don't like it a bit," says the Safety Boot Manager Avonne Ofenstein.

But all businesses will have to post something or face a heavy fine. City inspectors are also mass mailing the free signs to about 4,000 businesses. Although that, in and of itself, is a monumental task, Lubbock's ordinance is more complicated than getting businesses to post no smoking signs.

Inspectors are also up against a wordy ordinance. For example -- the exemption for sports grills. "You have to have a certain number of TV's and a certain size of television's. You have to have an all pervasive sports theme of some sort," says Faulkenberry.

There are also exemptions for bars, bingo parlors and smoke shops. And then there's a permit. Restaurants like Orlando's can still allow smoking if they've purchased a permit. They just have to post signs outside their main entrances stating that they continue to allow smoking.

But, in July 2004, all restaurants must go smoke free unless they install separately enclosed and ventilated rooms. Orlando's Owner David Cea says he can't afford to build a separate room, and the restaurant will go smokeless.

Then, Lead inspector Bridget Faulkenberry says there's the difficulty that goes hand in hand with enforcing an ordinance like this. Inspectors have yet to write a ticket. They know people have broken the law, but can't issue citations if they don't catch someone in the act. "People call, and by the time we get there, they're not smoking anymore."

Bottom line, inspectors say it's taking a lot of time, but they're hoping all of this education will be the key to helping Lubbockites fully understand the ordinance.

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